SciFi Weekend: Mr. Robot Season Finale; Doctor Who; The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; Outlander Finale; Apple and Disney Moving Into Streaming; The Punisher Renewed; The IT Crowd

Mr. Robot completed its third season and has officially been renewed for a fourth. While I don’t think the third season was able to be as good as the spectacular first season, I did feel that it was something of a comeback after the less successful second. The finale seemed to go full circle with the hack, had revelations for both Elliot and Angela, and put Dom in a new dilemma. Following are excerpts from four interviews with Sam Esmail about the season finale, including the impact of Donald Trump’s election on the show.

Entertainment Weekly:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The season ends with the suggestion that the hack will be undone. Was this the plan from the outset?
SAM ESMAIL: If I’m going to conjure up my original feature plan, this was always part of it. The plan was that basically toward the end of act two, he would reverse what he did, but still kind of be in a position of now pivoting and targeting the real top one percent that orchestrated the 5/9 hack behind his back. That was always a plot point, but as you can see, that kind of gets unwieldy because your main character’s goal is essential reversed as you go through the second act of the story.

Yeah, it’s basically Mad Max: Fury Road, turning back around and going back to where they came from.
Exactly. It’s literally turning the main motivation and main dramatic drive upside down. It’s kind of an Odyssey structure. With Elliot, because the journey is really internal and really about his emotional growth, having the plotline be circular like that lent to that more internal exploration…

I didn’t see the Angela-Price twist coming. What’s exciting for you about that dynamic going forward?
I’ve read this somewhere — though I wasn’t conscious of it when creating the show — that people consider this a family drama. In a weird way, I see the underpinnings of that. Obviously you have Elliot, Darlene, and Mr. Robot being this weird dysfunctional family. But then you throw in Angela, who, because she’s such a close friend, she is sort of part of that family unit that Elliot created growing up. One of the things that I think drives a lot of our characters are those family ties and the history of their families. In fact, that’s how they even know each other — because of Elliot’s father and Angela’s mother going through the same trauma. What I always felt was interesting was to reveal that this whole thing was actually kicked off by another family connection that we had no idea about: Price being the estranged father of Angela. If you peel back the onion and think about it. That caused this chain reaction. It’s because of Price’s connection to Angela that he hired this company that had no business being a cybersecurity company for a major conglomerate, and it’s because Angela worked at Allsafe that Elliot was offered a job there and had the idea to initiate the 5/9 hack. I thought it was interesting that, when you boil this massive global tragedy down, it was really these family connections that motivated and kicked off this whole event. That was always there from the get-go. In fact, that was the one reveal I thought people would most likely guess by the end of the first season, given how close we played Price and Angela together…

Do you intend for White Rose to remain a target for Elliot?
Yeah, I believe that the thing about the show is that we set up Tyrell as the main villain, when in fact, it’s White Rose, and that’s something that comes out this season. The ultimate target is White Rose and the Dark Army. Moving forward, that’s the pivot we’re trying to make. Elliot is going to go after them.

I have time for only one question, so I’m going to make it count. Does the pee tape exist in the world of Mr. Robot?
I think far worse than the pee tape exists in the world of Mr. Robot and our real world.

The Hollywood Reporter:

In the past, you have talked about envisioning Mr. Robot as a five-season arc. Exiting season three and heading into season four, does that plan remain intact?

Honestly, I’ve always said it’s four or five seasons, and I’ve said that because I think it’s somewhere in between. Whether that means the next two seasons are two short seasons, or it could technically still be two full ten-episode seasons, we’re still kind of figuring that out. It’s something the writers’ room and I take very seriously. We never want to feel like we’re treading water. Hopefully it fits into two more seasons, but we’re trying to figure out that number…

Season three ends with Elliot reversing the Five/Nine Hack, or at least beginning that process. How will that change the show moving forward, tonally?

It brings the show back to its initial promise of Elliot wanting to take down the guys behind the scenes who are manipulating society. The journey between seasons one to three has been about discovering who the real culprits are. The hack was merely a distraction that was coopted by these people, and it’s finally been revealed and exposed to Elliot. In a weird way, the next season will return back to that initial premise of the show and have Elliot be motivated by that, with this new clarity.

In a second story at The Hollywood Reporter:

Elliot and Mr. Robot finally return to each other’s lives, at one of their earliest meeting spots. Can you talk through the different ideas that were in place for how to get these characters back together on the same page after so much time apart, and to have that meeting of the minds at Coney Island, where it all started — at least as far as the show’s depiction of events, that is?

This is funny because so many of our pitches for this moment made their way into the episode in one way or another. When we started to brainstorm ideas for this reunion, we naturally were drawn to those Mr. Robot/Elliot milestones from the pilot and season one. Sam loved the idea of them speaking to each other on the Wonder Wheel again. I was pushing for a callback to that symmetrical shot of them sitting on opposite sides of a subway train. Someone else pitched the subway platform from the pilot. We ended up seeing all of that in this finale. The Wonder Wheel ended up being the initial reunion because of how uniquely tied to Mr. Robot it was. We’ve seen Elliot in all of these other locations already (the arcade, the subway, his apartment). It made sense that Elliot would allow himself to feel safe enough to talk to Mr. Robot on the Wonder Wheel.

It’s a very emotional moment, realizing that as much as Elliot has shades of Mr. Robot, the Mr. Robot side of his personality has his own shades of Elliot. Has that always been a tenant in writing the character, that Christian Slater’s side of Elliot has more in common with Rami Malek’s depiction than he or we realized? Is it something that was discovered in the writing of the character? And how critical is that reveal, moving forward?

The plan was always to evolve the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot. We’ve already been through so much manipulation, betrayal, and battling with them. To me, this is finally a beautiful moment of sincerity and honesty. It’s also cool because you, as Elliot’s friend, are able to witness how Mr. Robot is helpful in certain situations and how Elliot really needs him at times. It’s definitely a crucial reveal, as it’s that first step in the healing process — the path toward integration. By the end of this episode, in one of many callbacks to our pilot, we have a heartfelt exchange between Mr. Robot and Elliot. In a way, we’re healing Elliot and resetting him back to his old self. He still wants to take down the men who play god without permission, but he has a clearer view on who those people are now…

Elsewhere in the episode, we have Phillip Price’s Darth Vader moment, revealing himself as Angela’s biological father. Two-fold: was this always part of the character’s design, and do you think this news refocuses Angela? By the end of the finale, it’s hard to tell if she’s fully recovered from the Whiterose experience… do you think it’s fair to say she at least realizes she was being used, even if she still believes in Whiterose’s agenda to some degree?

This wasn’t always part of the character’s design. I think we decided on this about halfway through season two. Initially, we were working toward some kind of twisted, sexual infatuation that Price had with Angela. There actually was a pitch on the table in season two for Angela and Price to sleep with each other, but we ended up changing that to her going for an older dude at the bar. (Maybe she’s just into old dudes?) That sexual infatuation idea still works as a misdirect until the moment of the reveal. Of course, we dropped hints throughout this season that I know you picked up on (the anonymous benefactor, Price’s reaction when Whiterose confronted him about Angela, etc). I think it’s meant to be ambiguous at the end of that scene, but I definitely agree that she realizes she was being used by Whiterose, regardless of how much she still might believe in “the cause.”

Deadline Hollywood:

Let’s talk about what we saw tonight. Elliot is still bent on taking down the 1% of the world, but his dilemma is that he’s now in the pocket of WhiteRose.
The way we are ending the third season is that we’re coming back to the original promise: Elliot’s mission to take down secret organizations who are controlling things behind the scenes. It’s the first time that Elliot has exposed them and seen their true identity in that they’re being led by White Rose and the Dark Army. It’s an interesting predicament: He has leverage of them, but they have leverage over him as well. It’s an interesting Mexican standoff.

Elliot’s decision to reverse the 5/9 hack: Is this just a means to ease his own guilt after blowing up all those E-corp buildings?
Yeah, I think that with the journey of Elliot, we started the series with this guy in an immense amount of pain. Instead of facing that, he blamed it on society and externalized to the world around him what needed to be fixed, when in fact, he was avoiding facing the problem within. That’s what this moment in this season was about: His realization that what he wanted was not co-opted by the very people he was trying to take down; that it was wrong.  There are a few internal struggles he also faces in regards to his relationship with Mr. Robot and its evolution.

Angela learning that she was Phillip Price’s daughter. Why was this important to establish and was this something you knew going into the season? 

The thing about that revelation is that what I always thought was interesting in regards to the entire chain reaction of things that led to the 5/9 hack and the global catastrophe is that it all started with broken family ties. And really the chain reaction of Price who is estranged from his daughter her whole life, and reaching out in the distance, by hiring this (small) cybersecurity company which has no business representing E-Corp; then because of that, Elliot joins the company to avenge his father’s death — that strategy to attack E-Corp, that spiraling out of control, is in essence about broken family ties. Now (Price and Angela) are trying to heal that tragedy and trauma that comes out of it. We planned this very early on; at the end of the first season Price takes Angela in…

Dom and Darlene, where does this leave them now?
Dom is at a crossroads. She’s the most noble character to her cause in the entire series. She’s now in with the Dark Army in this brutal way and we’re going to see the aftereffects of that. In terms of Darlene, she’s going to have to live and process a lot of guilt of what she’s put Dom through. There’s a genuine relationship there: They did care for one another. It’s going to be interesting though because they’re on opposite sides. We’re going to explore that relationship and whether they survive through that.

The Brave Traveler at the end of tonight’s show, that’s the drug kingpin Fernando Vera who double-crossed Elliot in season one and took girlfriend Shayla’s life. What now?
Well, he’s a crazy person, an egomaniac and hopefully very entertaining to watch. I’ll leave that as my answer. There’s a personal connection here with Elliot and out of all the global chaos that he’s been experiencing on the show, this one narrows the field a bit on a personal level. Shayla was the only true connection Elliot made when we began the series. We’ll definitely explore the blowback from all of that with her murder and how Elliot assisted in breaking Vera out of prison.


While Esmail said the current political climate doesn’t influence the plot itself, he noticed it affects the energy writers bring into the room. Esmail called the election “catastrophic not just for the country, but for the world.” Still, he says he is open-minded about politics.

“I never try and tune anything out. I think that’s a mistake,” he says. “You want to bring all the honest stuff that’s going on inside you into your work. Otherwise you’re keeping a lot of authenticity out.”

Following President Donald Trump’s election, Esmail said the writers felt the same apprehension that many others experienced.

“When you’re talking about a man that’s incoherent and inarticulate and unintelligent, egomaniacal, it’s a dangerous thing for the world,” Esmail said of Trump getting elected. “We also felt a little responsibility to it. That we underestimated him, that we underestimated that this can possibly happen,” he explains.

That sense of accountability then loosely paralleled Elliot’s journey this season, he said.

“That indirect responsibility led to a lot of Elliot’s feeling at the beginning of the season of his responsibility in the 9/5 hack, which was a lot more direct, but that energy that we were all feeling and sensing in the room,” Esmail says. “This dread that we have committed this crime by not doing something enough definitely fueled a lot of Elliot’s motivations.”

Mozilla upset some users when they inserted a browser extension which promoted Mr. Robot into their Firefox browser, leading users to think their computer was hacked. There is a similar virtual reality game available on Amazon’s Alexa products, but they handled it in a safer manner. Ads during the show show people asking Alexa for the Daily Five/Nine. For this to work, it is necessary for users to specifically enable the Daily Five/Nine skill. Generally I find it to be a negative for Alexa that some information is not obtainable unless the user knows which skill to activate, but in this case it is for the better that users only receive paranoid news from the Mr. Robot universe if they activate it.

Steven Moffat originally did not plan to have Bill Potts in the Christmas episode of Doctor Who and explained why he changed his mind:

“I was 20 pages in to the script, and I thought, ‘I need Bill here. There isn’t a witness for this. The Captain [played by Mark Gatiss] isn’t quite right as the witness. I want to hear what Bill would say.’ I needed that voice back in the show. I just did.

I missed her terribly. I missed the way Bill reacted to things. Also, if the Twelfth Doctor’s got someone as forthright and irreverent as Bill, you really want the First Doctor to meet her! [Laughs]”

Following a screening of Twice About A Time, Steven Moffat argued that Doctor Who is the greatest show ever made:

“It’s worth saying, because I don’t think it’s ever said enough… the reason Doctor Who is as successful – I mean humanly successful – for so long in such an enduring way – and I’m just gonna say it because I don’t ever say it, but now I’m leaving I’ll say it – it is actually the greatest television show ever made.

“I’m gonna prove it to you. There are probably press here who are ‘No, it’s The Wire’. It’s not The Wire. It’s not I Claudius. It’s not The Office. It’s not even Blue Planet. It’s Doctor Who and I’m gonna prove to whoever is doubting me the hardest that they’re wrong to doubt me.

“How do you measure greatness? Do you measure it by ratings? Do you measure it by reviews? Christ no, of course you don’t.

“Do you measure it by perfection? Is Doctor Who perfect every week? No, it’s not. It really isn’t. It can’t be. Because every episode of Doctor Who is an experiment, and if you experiment every single week, sometimes you get a faceful of soot and you’re blinking the smoke away and you look a bit ridiculous. That happens. Perfection is the refinement of boredom, it’s doing the same thing all the time perfectly. Doctor Who, by always being different, can never be perfect.

“But yes, how do we measure its greatness?

“There are people who became writers because of Doctor Who. Loads of them.

“There are people who became artists because of Doctor Who.

“There are people who became actors because of Doctor Who. Two of them have played the Doctor.

“There are people, believe it or not, who become scientists because of Doctor Who. That seems improbable given we said the moon was an egg, you’d think they’d have a problem with it.

“But people become scientists, people change their view of the world and what they’re capable of, because of a silly show about a man who travels around in time and space in a police box.

“So, never mind the reviews. Never mind anything. Never mind the ratings. Never mind any of that.

“Count the scientists, the musicians, the scholars, the writers, the directors, the actors, who became what they are because of this show.

“Count, as you might say, the hearts that beat a little faster because of Doctor Who.

 “I do not even know what is in second place, but without doubt, and by that most important measure, Doctor Who is the greatest television show ever made.”
Peter Capaldi also had this to say:

“I’d like to thank all my friends on Doctor Who for sharing their good humour, talent and life with me over the last four years. And particularly, Steven Moffat, who has brought so much to Doctor Who, even more than might be realised today, but will be seen clearly in the future.

“I’d like to thank everyone who loves the show for sharing it with me, and sharing the boundless generosity of spirit that it embodies. I wish Jodie and the new TARDIS team all the best for the future, and the past, and everything inbetween, and look forward to watching them journey to new and wonderful places.

“For me, it’s been an amazing trip. I went to the end of time, I met fantastical creatures… and I blew them up. But now it’s over. Time I was off.”

Last week’s post included additional Doctor Who news including information on a special about the Peter Capaldi era which will air after the Christmas episode, a trailer for the episode, a link to an interview with Steven Moffat, and an article on David Bradley.

For the benefit of those who did not see it because of more problems with Facebook, last week I had a review of  Mad Idolatry, the first season finale of The Orville. Until links from Facebook groups to the post were shut down by Facebook, the link to this video of  Sports Illustrated model Kyra Santoro as the scantily-clad Ensign Turco had a quite a few hits. Hopefully this remains up this week–there is little consistency to Facebook’s censorship.

In an interview with Digital Spy, Seth MacFarlane argued that The Orville filled a void left behind by the classic Star Trek:

Speaking to Digital Spy, the creator and star of The Orville said that he was heavily inspired by the themes and direction of classic Star Trek – aspects which he feels haven’t been replicated much since then.

“I kind of miss the forward-thinking, aspirational, optimistic place in science fiction that Star Trek used to occupy,” he said.

“I think they’ve chosen to go in a different direction which has worked very well for them in recent years, but what has happened is that it’s left open a space that has been relatively unoccupied for a while in the genre.

“In the same way that when James Bond kind of moved into a different area than classic James Bond, Iron Man came along and sort of filled that void.

“So for me, it’s a space that’s kind of waiting to be filled in this day and age when we’re getting a lot of dystopian science fiction, a lot of which is great and very entertaining, but it can’t all be The Hunger Games.”

MacFarlane added: “It can’t all be the nightmare scenario.

While MacFarlane has used a lot of humor in the series, the show did turn out to be more like Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation as opposed to being a parody as many pre-season articles incorrectly described the series. MacFarlane also corrected this misconception in another interview with Digital Spy, saying that The Orville was not influenced by Galaxy Quest.

The titles for the chapter 2 episodes of Star Trek: Discovery have been revealed:

Episode 10:  “Despite Yourself” (January 7)

Episode 11: “The Wolf Inside” (January 14)

Episode 12:  “Vaulting Ambition” (January 21)

Episode 13: “What’s Past Is Prologue” (January 28)

Episode 14: “The War Without, The War Within” (February 4)

Episode 15: “Will You Take My Hand?” (February 11)

Four new character posters, including the one above, have also been released. The full set can be seen here.

Last week I linked to a couple of articles on the fall portion of the season of Star Trek: Discovery. Bleeding Cool also weighs in, arguing that Star Trek: Discovery Absolutely Earns Its Place in the Star Trek Continuity. My review of the fall finale was posted here, and I looked at other aspects of the show, including continuity, here. I will resume weekly reviews of the episodes after Discovery returns.

Wil Wheaton tweeted about wearing his Star Trek uniform to the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While I didn’t go until last night, for the record, as I don’t have a Star Trek uniform and it was too cold for either of my Star Trek t-shirts, I wore a Gallifrey sw and, again as it was cold out, my Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf.

Outlander also had a season finale last week. Deadline talked to Ron Moore about the episode and future plans. Apple has also ordered a science fiction show from Ron Moore, who also was behind the revival of Battlestar Galactica. Deadline reports:

Created and written by Moore, along with Fargo co-executive producers Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, the untitled series  explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. Tall Ship Prods.’ Moore and Maril Davis executive produce with Wolpert and Nedivi.

This is is the third original scripted series ordered by Apple via its recently formed worldwide video programming division headed by former Sony TV presidents Jamie Erlicht & Zack Van Amburg, joining a morning show drama series project, executive produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, which has a two-season pickup, and Amazing Stories, a reimagining of the classic anthology from Steven Spielberg and Bryan Fuller.

It looks like Apple is working hard to make a credible entry into original programming with such orders. Of course they will have very tough competition from not only the established sources, but from Disney when they launch their planned streaming service.  Assuming the deal goes through, their acquisition of much of Fox will give them an incredible library, including many major genre franchises, along with a controlling stake in both Netflix and Hulu.

Netflix has renewed The Punisher for a second season. Last week’s post included the trailer for season two of Jessica Jones, which will be released March 8.

HBO has renewed Larry David’s show Curb Your Enthusiasm for a tenth season.

NBC is trying yet again to have a US version of The IT Crowd. Maybe they will have better luck this time as Graham Linehan, who created the original, is going to be the writer and executive producer. Besides being an excellent comedy, the show teaches the most important lesson you will ever need to fix computer problems (as explained in the video above).